This is called Dysmenorrhea, and a lot of women experience this. Exactly what is dysmenorrheal and why to a lot of women experience this pain? I have read an article about this and I thought that I'd share this with my readers. Below is the complete article on this subject which was published by Health.care on September 2003 written by Cybonn Tan.
If you dread the monthly menstrual cycle because of the unbearable cramps that often go with it, you're not alone.
About fifty-two percent of women go through different degrees of abdominal cramps related to menstruation. Discomfort can range from annoying to agonizing. When the pain is severe, it is called Dysmenorrhea, a Greek word that literally means painful menstruation.
Menstruating women of any age may experience abdominal cramps that begin a few hours before or after the start of menstrual flow and which can last for up to 3 days. One in every ten women suffer from severe cramps during periods that significantly interfere with regular activities and inhibit one from functioning normally-making dysmenorrheal the leading cuse of absences in work, school and other functions among women.
THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF DYSMENORRHEA: PRIMARY AND SECONDARY
PRIMARY DYSMENORRHEA, or the common menstrual cramps experienced by women, is often characterized as a dull or throbbing pain that usually centers in the lower abdomen, spreading toward the lower back, hips and inner thighs, and is often accompanied by dizziness, headaches ,nausea, diarrhea or constipation. Some women also experience cold sweats, clamminess, and in extreme cases fainting spells. The severity of symptoms very greatly from one cycle to the next, and from woman to woman.
The pain of Primary Dysmenorrhea recurs regularly within a year to three years of the first menstruation, and no abnormality is identified to cause it. It usually occurs few hours before bleeding intensifies within a few more hours, and gradually decreases within a day or two. It is often relieved by the onset of smooth menstrual flow. While this type of menstrual pain lessens for some women as they grow older of after childbirth, it can also continue until menopause.
In SECONDARY DYSMENORRHEA, pain begins years after periods have started, with an underlying gynecological disorder as its cause. It begins up to a few days before menstruation and lasts several days after the onset of flow. It is often confined to one area of the abdomen or near the pelvis and does not peak nor diminish as clearly or quickly as primary dysmenorrheal.
WHY DO I EXPERIENCE PAIN?
There are many possible reasons for dysmenorrhea. Uterine contractions caused by an imbalance in the production of hormone-like substance called prostaglandin is one. Prostaglandin, normally found in your body, triggers contractions. The production of prostaglandin by the uterus is stimulated by the hormone progesterone, which is made by the ovary after every ovulation. Prostaglandin can cause contractions severe enough to cut off blood supply temporarily, deprive uterine muscles of oxygen, thus causing pain. Women with severe dysmenorrheal are found to have higher prostaglandin levels in their menstrual fluid than others, or are more sensitive to the chemical. Dysmenorrhea due to prostaglandin imbalance only occurs after a complete "ovulatory" cycle where an egg is released. It does not occur during "anovulatory" cycle where no egg is released.
Pain during primary dysmenorrheal may have other causes as well, such as:
- Having a retroverted (backward-tilting) uterus
- Lack of exercise
- Psychological stress
- Calcium deficiency
It is also widely believed that a history of dysmenorrhea in the family makes a woman prone to having menstrual cramps.
On the other hand, the most common cause of secondary dysmenorrhea is endometriosis, where the endometrial lining the inside of the uterus-the endometium-grows in abnormal locations outside the uterus and undergoes the same monthly cycle changes. Other reasons are:
- A narrow cervical canal (after treatment for cervical disorder)
- Adenomyosis – a non-cancerous condition where the lining of the uterus grows into the muscle of the uterus.
- Fibroids – non-malignant growths in the uterus.
- Adhesions – abnormal fibrous attachments between organs
- Pelvic Inflammatory disease (PID)
- Salpingitis – inflammation of the fallopian tubes.
Although there are different reasons for one's menstrual cramps, common factors that worsen pain include anemia, diabetes, obesity, chronic illness, overwork, stress, poor nutrition, and exposure to second-hand smoke.
Extensive studies prove that medications are still the best treatment for cramps. The advent of pain relievers that impede the production of prostaglandin has made it possible to directly treat the most common cause of cramps. These non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NASAIDs, are helpful for easing in many sufferers especially when taken before menstruation begins.
While there are about dozen prescription NASAIDs, three (ibuprofen, Naproxen, and Mefenamic Acid) are now recognized to effectively treat menstrual cramps. Ibuprofen is the active ingredient in several over-the-counter medications for this specific condition. Women who are not relieved with one NSAID are often successfully treated with another NSAID, thus it is recommended to try more that one agent.
Aspirin, a long-time standard over-the-counter remedy for cramps, works as a prostaglandin inhibitor, thinning the blood and increasing bleeding, although it does not appear to as effective as Ibuprofen.
Some over-the-counter menstrual pain medications contain a combination of ingredients that include an analgesic such Acetaminophen, a diuretic such as Pamabrom, and an antihistamine such as Pyrilamine Maleate, to effectively alleviate symptoms of pain, bloatedness, and swelling. Some newer formulations use ibuprofen in place of analgesics.
Some physicians may recommend hormonal treatment for women with severe dysmenorrhea. The hormones prevent ovulation and inhibit the ovary from producing the pain-causing prostaglandin. Oral contraceptive pills are therefore used to treat severe primary dysmenorrhea.
Other remedies are also helpful. Homeopathic remedies can help sooth the pain, and often help reduce a woman's tendency toward menstrual problems. Homeopathy is non-toxic system of medicine used to treat illness and relieve discomfort of wide variety of health conditions. There are several recommended homeopathic remedy for different symptoms of dysmenorrhea.
As in any case, precaution is advised with every medication you take. Consult your doctor before taking a medication.
LIFESTYLE AND DIET
Like many other condition, cramps may be made worse by stress, fatigue, and anxiety. Getting enough rest before a period can actually help prevent it. Managing anxiety and stress also helps. Meditation or relaxation through yoga or the Alexander Technique may improve your condition. The Alexander Technique relieves muscle pains and helps control breathing in stressful conditions. Aromatherapy can also have therapeutic effects. In some cases, women undergo psychotherapy to release them from stress. In the same light, there are those who use music therapy to calm the senses and ease pain.
Some doctors believe that women may be able to help themselves by getting enough rest, exercising, eliminating or cutting down on smoking, reducing intake of caffeine, and changing their diets even before their periods begin. Dietary recommendations to ease cramps include increasing complex carbohydrates, cutting fat, red meat, diary products, and sugar. Research suggests that vitamin B supplements primarily B6 in a complex, and fish oil supplements (omega-3 fatty acids) help to relieve cramps. Researchers at the Columbia University recommended taking 1,300 mgs of calcium daily because it reduces cramping by 40 percent. Although a daily calcium supplement may suffice, one my also take natural calcium in the form of food-four servings of milk or one cup of yogurt every day. There are also data that indicate that intake of magnesium supplements may aid in relieving pain.
In a recent study by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C., low-fat vegetarian diets have been discovered to shorten the days of cramping. High-fiber diets lower the production of estrogen and prostaglandin.
Exercising before menstruation is said to have valuable effect in a woman's well-being. It increases the release of natural endorphins, suppresses excess prostaglandin from being released, and shunts blood away from the uterus. Needless to say, menstrual pain is decreased by regular exercise.
NATURAL AND ALTERNATIVE REMEDIES
The ancient Chinese tradition, widely practiced until now, uses acupuncture and acupressure to improve menstrual symptoms by activating a variety of endocrine and neurologic mechanisms in our body, blocking the transmission of pain signals, and increasing adrenocorticotropic hormone.
Others may undergo hypnosis, and some massage. Massage therapy helps relieve pain through touch. Touching, rubbing and stroking certain areas of our body increase the level of endorphins, the body's natural pain-killing chemicals.
Another form of therapy is called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), a drug-free method of pain relief. Pads placed on or near the abdomen send soothing pulses to the skin along the nerve fibers. These suppress pain signals to the brain and encourage the body to produce higher levels of endorphins.
Natural remedies for menstrual cramps have also been in use for thousands of years. If you frown on medication or suffer from side effects such as ulcers or allergies try these (it is best to combine treatments to achieve pain relief):
- Heat, in the form of heating pad or hot water bag, applied to the lower abdomen (to introduce a blood flow,)
- Lie down in fetal position with knees pulled up to the chest while hugging a pillow to the abdomen.
- Visualization, such as concentrating on the pain as a particular color and gaining control of the sensations. Others find that imagining a white light hovering over the painful area can actually lessen the pain for brief periods.
Dysmenorrhea may be delibitating, but you can lessen you suffering by taking control of it. Track your periods on a calendar to enable you to take precautionary measures days or even weeks before. With medications or preventive measures, it may be possible to be free of pain during your period.
SIMPLE EXERCISE ROUTINES TO COUNTER DYSMENORRHEA:
(may be done independent of each other, two to three times a day, every day for about a week before your period begins)
Lie face up with legs and knees bent; perform abdominal breathing about 10 times, feeling abdomen slowly inflate then slowly fall.
Stand holding back of chair; lift one heel off the floor, then the other; repeat 20 times.
Stand holding back of chair then do five deep knee bends.
While lying on back lift and bring knees to touch chin, 10 times.